Tangram (now 1809 -- or 1712?) (UNCLASSIFIED)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Sep 11 01:43:55 UTC 2007

>I think the other, earlier cites may be read as typos for "Trangam" or
>"Trangram", rather than specifically meaning the puzzle to which
>"Tangram" currently refers (for that matter, the cite I post above may
>be such).  But since it is likely that Tangram derived from the other
>words, the point at which Tangram assumed its current meaning may not be
>easy to find.

I think the multiple citations which we've looked up strongly suggest
"trangam" > "trangram" > "tangram", perhaps with coexistence as
synonyms or variants for quite a while.

Of the three the last might be preferred as a name for a Chinese
puzzle since "-gram" looks familiar/appropriate (cf. "anagram" etc.)
and "tan[g]" (but not "tran[g]") looks like a Chinese syllable.

As for the ultimate etymology, I would tentatively suggest that
"trangam" (with unstressed second syllable, apparently) is likely the
same as the second part of "tringum-trangum" = "trinkum-trankum" =
"trinkum" = "trinket" (all mentioned in my OED under "trinkum")
(further etymology 'unknown', I guess).

-- Doug Wilson

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